If you want to discover European and German culture, history and art and you dont have much time to spend – go to Weimar, because you will find quintessential European culture in one place. Goethe, Schiller, Gropius: Weimar is the star of Germany’s and Europe’s intellectual past and is intrinsically linked with big names. Both Weimar Classicism and the Bauhaus movement remain beacons of the extraordinarily rich cultural life that you will encounter throughout the city. Although it only
lasted around 50 years, Weimar Classicism was one of the greatest eras in European intellectual history. It all began with Duchess Anna Amalia, who pulled in the great poets and philosophers, whose fame is still associated with Weimar. Reminders of Classical Weimar include the houses of Goethe and Schiller, Belvedere Palace, Ettersburg Castle and Tiefurt Mansion with their fabulous parks – all sites associated with Herder. Other attractions from this period include Wittums Palace, where the illustrious round table assembled, the renowned Duchess Anna Amalia Library and the historical cemetery with its royal crypt, where Goethe and Schiller are laid to rest. It’s no wonder, then, that the adoption of Classical Weimar as a UNESCO World Heritage Site was based on the art-historical significance of the town’s buildings and parks and on its role as an intellectual hub in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Another great epoch that emerged and flourished in Weimar was the Bauhaus, one of the foremost movements in architecture and design of the 20th century.
One of the most important examples of Classical Weimar, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lived in this Baroque house for almost fifty years. He lived there from 1782 to 1789 as a tenant, then from 1792 to 1832 as the owner. The poet planned the form and furnishing of the rooms as well as its rich collections, e.g. in the Juno Room. The furnishings and fittings from the last few years of Goethe’s life have largely been preserved. For reasons of conservation, the number of visitors is limited. Shortly after the death of Goethe’s last grandson Walther, Goethe’s historic residence and his art and nature collections passed on to the trusteeship of the Goethe National Museum, founded in 1885. Two museum buildings were built in 1913 and 1935 to accommodate the steadily growing collection. The Goethe National Museum is situated in the same building as Goethe Residence.
The 48-hectare landscaped park on the edge of Weimar’s old town is part of a kilometre-long stretch of green along the Ilm. It was laid between 1778 and 1828 and features both sentimental, classical and post-classical/romantic styles. Important
characteristics of the park include the numerous lines of sight linking features such as Goethe’s garden house, the Roman House and the bark house within the park; these also connect them with the surrounding countryside.
The Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek is one of the most famous libraries in Germany. Anna Amalia had the ‘Green Palace’ turned into a library comprising a unique combination of books, an art collection and architecture. The Rococo Hall is especially famous. On the evening of September 2nd 2004, a devastating fire broke out in the original building of the Herzogin Anna Amalia Library and developed into the largest library fire in Germany since WW II. The historical building, which belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage, was damaged by fire and water, and the third floor and the attic were completely destroyed. During the night of the fire and the following days, more than nine hundred helpers evacuated tens of thousands of books and art works out of the building and from under the rubble left after the fire. Large parts of the valuable collection were maintained, to which medieval autographs, incunabula (early printed books dating from before 1500), globes and maps belong, as well as the largest Faust collection in the world and Nietzsche’s private library. Of the 50,000 burned volumes, about three quarters are estimated to be replaceable on the long term.
The castle contains an exquisite collection of arts and crafts, including precious porcelain, faïence, glasses and select furniture.
The historical rooms of Belvedere Castle with the festive hall, the silver salon and the side pavilions, have been restored during the last few years at great expense. An exhibit on hunting in the Weimar countryside can be visited in the east pavilion, and an exhibit on the culture of gardens during the lifetime of Duke Ernst August, who commissioned the Belvedere Palace, is on diplay in the west pavilion.